Mount Nebo: a fable

mtnbAs is well known, the prophet Nephi was so beloved of the Lord that he was given power to command all things. If he called for famine, there would be famine. If he commanded Mount Nebo to be moved, it would be moved from its place. And in fact, one morning Nephi walked out of his house, looked at Mount Nebo, and commanded it to be moved thirty miles to the north. The mountain rose into the air, drifted north, and set itself down again in the place it stands today. After this, Nephi led a long and productive life, enjoying the devotion of those who loved him and the fear of those who hated him.

Even after Nephi died, Mount Nebo remained an object of considerable interest. After many years, however, some people began to question the wisdom of moving Mount Nebo. Orchards that had once relied on the mountain for shade withered in the sun, they pointed out. Farms that had once enjoyed unbroken sunlight were now stunted in its shade. Where the mountain now stood had once been a beautiful lake, and the mountain’s movement had obliterated a thriving ecosystem and crushed thousands of animals beneath it. What had once been the mountain’s base was now a rocky wasteland where nothing grew. The movement of Mount Nebo had blocked up rivers in some places and unleashed floods in others. In short, argued these earnest students of montanokinetics, Nephi’s impulsive action had left massive economic disruption and environmental devastation in its wake. Moving Mount Nebo had been a rash and thoughtless act that continued to cause misery up to the present day.

After a few years of growing discontent, they began to circulate petitions. Encouraged by the many signatures they gathered, they appointed a commission to study the issue. The commission issued a report of its findings and appointed a select committee to promote its call for action. Finally the select committee, in sorrow and distress, approached the house of Zenos, the new prophet. They knocked and waited until Zenos came to the door. The select committee laid out its case to him and called on him to disavow Nephi and his destructive heritage.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Zenos. “I would rather be under Mount Nebo when it landed than disavow a prophet who moved mountains.”

10 comments for “Mount Nebo: a fable

  1. ji
    1
    May 31, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    Thanks! I love it!

  2. Brad L
    2
    May 31, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    I’m not quite sure what lesson you are intending readers to derive from this. Is it that we shouldn’t expect current prophets to acknowledge the harm caused by the action of past prophets? Or is it that the LDS prophets’ acts have been as great and miraculous as the actual act of moving a mountain that we should revere them no matter what they do, right or wrong?

    If the former, then I partially agree. It is unreasonable to expect the current LDS leaders to condemn many of the actions of past LDS leaders with any immediacy. However, Spencer W. Kimball disavowed Brigham Young’s Adam-God theory, and the current leaders have disavowed theories that black skin is a mark of a curse, which past leaders, including figures in the Book of Mormon, have believed to be doctrinal. Furthermore, it is not unreasonable to believe that changes in policy, shifts in what is emphasized as the most relevant and important teachings, and changes in what is understood to be doctrinal have been shaped by the leaders’ perceptions of the collective attitudes of their core followers, as well as pressure from the US government (in the case of polygamy) and the leaders’ desire to create the state of Utah and have representation in the US government.

    If the latter, then I question the wisdom of this fable. First, because what is it exactly, which can be proven to be an amazing feat by using multiple methods of inquiry and not just the approved LDS method of inquiry, that any modern LDS leader has done that is so impressive that we must consider it miraculous or superhuman or extraordinarily amazing? The question that many have is not what damage these so-called amazing feats caused, but whether the mountain was actually moved at all. Second, we shouldn’t revere people because they have done amazing things. We should revere the amazing act or the amazing idea. But people are fully capable of doing horrific things and saying wrong and crazy things. Third, there are many who have accomplished impressive feats that are down right evil. Those feats shouldn’t be revered because they were impressive, but should be disavowed and called out.

  3. Not a Cougar
    3
    June 1, 2016 at 2:12 am

    Jonathan, color me someone who doesn’t quite get your point (then again, I was the guy who couldn’t really imagine what terrible things were going on offstage in Heart of Darkness until my English teacher provides some helpful hints). Can you add some training wheels to your metaphor?

  4. N. W. Clerk
    4
    June 1, 2016 at 9:07 am

    I was hoping this was going to be about J. Golden Kimball.

  5. MH
    5
    June 1, 2016 at 10:29 am

    I think it’s significant that the petitioners are not asking for a criticism of the mountain-moving, but a disavowal of the mountain mover.

  6. MH
    6
    June 1, 2016 at 10:29 am

    Edit: “…the petitioners are not /only/ asking…”

  7. Terry H
    7
    June 1, 2016 at 10:47 am

    If one or two comments adds a h— or d— or something, then we’ll get there, N.W.. :)

  8. Beth
    8
    June 1, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    My take-away:
    1. People foolishly complain about God’s miracles rather than adapt to a new reality. (Compare children of Israel leaving Egypt?)
    2. The fable implies that a disavowal is a very serious action, equivalent to moving a mountain. Current prophets are loathe to do it. (Thus we should stop asking for disavowals or changes to policies?)

  9. Ultramontane Mormon
    9
    June 2, 2016 at 2:03 am

    It seems to me that this story symbolizes those who cannot see the wisdom in what the Lord has done. We cannot disavow previous prophets because we cannot understand the reasoning behind their use of the power delegated to them by the Lord. While the Lord delegates authority to the prophets, I feel like there is some sort of “approval process” involved. For example, Nephi could not have used the mountain to crush a person that he thought was a jerk. Because of this, the Lord would not have “approved” the mountain drop unless there was some greater good involved. In this case it appears that the faith of many was strengthened. While things done by previous prophets may seem strange to us (looking at you Ezekiel) there was a divine purpose in them. This is just my thought on the parable though, and I would love to hear the official interpretation (if indeed one does exist).

  10. Darn it
    10
    June 2, 2016 at 6:41 am

    Your fable puts things in perspective. Here, a prophet causes great harm in an action done for no apparent reason other than to explore the limits of his power. Later prophets won’t disavow the action, despite its harmfulness and senselessness.

    You’ve really nailed it.

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